When London Irish have been on-song this season, it has tended to be at home.
The Exiles have been well-beaten by Sale Sharks and Bath on the road in recent weeks, and with Saints having rediscovered their winning ways at Franklin’s Gardens, after a fallow 2020, this could be another fruitless journey for the men from Brentford.
True enough, London Irish won 20-16 at Saints last season. But Saints had to play the last half-an-hour with 14 men on that occasion due to Api Ratuniyarawa’s red card. Even then, Irish had to rely on a last-minute try from Dave Porecki to get the job done.
Anyhow, not much can be read into that game as both teams are largely unrecognisable from the ones that took to the field 15 months ago. In the Saints XV, only Teimana Harrison remains from the pack but is playing at No.8 instead of openside, while Ollie Sleightholme and Piers Francis are the only backs to survive.
For Irish, five players are present from the 2020 clash with James Stokes switching from full-back to outside centre, to play alongside another ‘returnee’ in Terence Hepetema, and Ollie Hassell-Collins lines up again on the wing.
Blair Cowan, who makes his 150th appearance for Irish at the Gardens tonight, and Albert Tuisue were both in the pack. Those two make for a formidable force in the back row but with the likes of Agustin Creevy, Sean O’Brien, Curtis Rona and Theo Brophy-Clews missing, the Exiles look a little banged up.
London Irish’s last six games in all tournaments have all gone the way of home field advantage and Saints should have enough about them to cover the six-point handicap offered by skybet at 8/13.